This article is part of a series of reviews on the “Game of Thrones” television adaptations of George RR Martin’s “A Song of Fire and Ice” book series.
Episode 1:”The Red Woman”
Fans were perhaps disappointed that this episode did not provide many immediate forwarding of the character positions from the finale of Season 5.
Viewers were reminded of the death of Ramsey Bolton’s mistress Myranda at the end of Season 5. Ramsey’s means of murder was horrific as usual and he had only fleeting nostalgia in remembering her and requested that her body be fed to the dogs as meat. All was certainly not good for the Boltons, as Roose Bolton later reminded Ramsey that they might have bested Stannis but they have now lost Sansa and are vulnerable to attack from the Lannisters. Roose kept the pressure on Ramsey with a threat to make his new wife’s unborn child his heir, unless Ramsey could figure out a way to get the North united behind him.
Theon had seemingly snapped back into his old personality at the end of Season 5 and his escape from Winterfell with Sansa was touched on at length. The pair was chased by dogs, escaping by crossing a river and hiding in a tree. Uncomfortably, Sansa was protected from the winter chill by Theon’s body heat. They were briefly discovered and held by the Bolton loyalists but Brienne and Podrick arrived to save the day. Theon further proved himself by saving Poderick during the resulting skirmish with the Bolton loyalists. Brienne then presented herself as Sansa’s protector and she accepted that offer.
Arya’s story continued in Braavos with confirmation that she was still blind and become a street beggar. Her time as a trainee was not over though, as the Waif approached her with the hope of fighting her in a duel with sticks. Arya resisted the notion and ended up being beaten by the Waif but the Waif promised further exercises in the future.
Tyrion and Varys anchored the update in Mereen, where Tyrion found himself slowly adjusting by interacting with the struggling locals. He was resolved to finding the leader of the Sons of the Harpy and Varys confirmed that his spies were on the lookout. The Harpies appeared to strike again though, as ships that Daenerys’ army was to use were instead set on fire.
Daenerys herself had been captured by Dothraki at the end of Season 5 and she was taken to Khal Moro. Daenerys managed to avoid harm by revealing her status as Khal Drogo’s widow. Unfortunately, Dothraki custom meant that she belonged virtually imprisoned with other Khal widows at the Temple of Vaes Dothrak.
Rescue was somewhat near for Daenerys. Daario and Jorah had worked together to track her position, eventually finding the ring that Daenerys had dropped as a sort of breadcrumb.
The Sand Snakes ended season 5 having seemingly killed Myrcella and they continued to escalate the situation in Dorne when Ellaria visited with Doran. The pair shared memories of Oberyn but when news arrived of Myrcella’s death, a coup took place as Ellaria killed Doran. As he was dying, Doran suggested that Prince Trystane would someday avenge his murder but Ellaria insisted that Trystane would also be killed. Obara and Nymeria make good on that promise by later confronting the prince and killing him in a drawn out sequence.
Cersei, having grown back some of the hair on her head that had been lost last season, awaited the return of Jaime and Myrella to King’s Landing. Yet again, she learned that one of her children had died.
Also in King’s Landing, Margaery was shown as still having been imprisoned by the High Sparrow. She seemed to have been slowly broken by the man.
Viewers expecting Jon Snow’s quick return from the dead were surely disappointed. Rather, his dead body was found by Davos via an assist from the dog Ghost. The body was taken by Davos to Edd and Melisandre joined the men but she had a confused reaction. She was convinced that Jon was meant to fight in Winterfell but no one believed that claim.
Alliser Thorne, Othell Yarwyck and Bowen Marsh managed to justify the killing of Jon to the Knights Watch members at Castle Black. This put Davos and Edd at odds with everyone else, leaving them under siege with Jon’s body until a realization was made that the Wildlings could be employed as allies. Edd snuck out to recruit the Wildlings while Davos was left behind to engage in likely fruitless negotiations with Thorne. A timeline for Davos’s surrender was set for sunset.
Perhaps the biggest talker amongst fans of this episode revolved around Melisandre. She retired to her bedroom with viewers wondering if perhaps she had been misled by the Lord of Light. As she readied to sleep, she removed her necklace and clothing, only to be shown as a very aged woman and not the relatively young temptress that viewers recognized.
As with most first episodes on past seasons, not many ‘new’ events occurred. Rather, it was a leisurely re-establishing of various character situations. The hostile takeover of Dorne contained a twist for sure but how much that twist would play into the more-mainstream storylines was not entirely clear. The loss of the ships in Mereen was simply another reminder that the storyline of Daenerys’ return to Westros was only going to be further spread out.
Episode 2: “Home”
This episode probably contained the ‘new’ events that fans might have assumed would have been covered in the first episode of the season.
Viewers rejoined Bran for the first time since the end of Season 4, learning that he was still training with the Three-Eyed Raven and the actor portraying that wizard-like character had switched to the legendary Max Von Sydow. A rare flashback occurred with Bran seeing a young Ned Stark, the oft discussed but never seen Lyanna Stark and Bran’s uncle Benjen. Also of note for viewers – and Bran – was a young Hodor, who was apparently able to speak normally in his younger years and known as Wylis. That vision was cut short amid a warning from that Three-Eyed Raven that being in such a state for too long can be dangerous. Meera Reed and Leaf were also seen, with Meera still mourning the loss of her brother in the Season 4 finale.
The Frankenstein-esque version of the Mountain was seen briefly in Kings Landing, dispatching a commoner who had boasted to others in a bar that he had been amongst those mocking Cersei during her walk of shame at the end of Season 5.
Kings Landing hosted Myrcella’s funeral but Cercei was blocked from attending it due to her recent conflicts with the Sparrows. Confusion abounded with Tommen assuming that Cersei was behind the murder of Prince Trystane even though viewers knew otherwise. Tommen and Cersei seemed to make peace when he apologized to his mother for not trying harder to free her from the High Sparrow. Jaimie confronted the High Sparrow after Myrcella’s funeral and nearly killed the man but he stopped after noticing that the High Sparrow didn’t seem to fear death. The man’s reasoning had to do with the Sparrows all being weak individuals but they remained powerful as a collective.
Arya as a beggar was again briefly visited by the Waif. She asked Arya her name and Arya gave the correct answer of having ‘no name.’ The Waif turned into Jaqen H’ghar while continuing to prod her but Arya stuck to her answers and was welcomed back into formal training.
The continued tensions between Ramsay and Roose Bolton came to an abrupt end at Winterfell when Roose was stabbed to death by Ramsay just after learning that Walda Bolton had given birth to a male heir. As had become the norm with Ramsay, horror then ensued with him feeding both Walda and the new baby to his hounds.
The Brienne and Sansa relationship continued to develop with Sansa learning that Arya was still alive. The guilty Theon decided to leave the group and set out for the Iron Islands.
Speaking of Theon’s family, Theon’s father Balon and his sister Yara argued about what their next moves should be out at the Iron Islands. After that encounter, Balon ran into his seemingly-lost and obviously crazy younger brother Eron who argued that Balon was too old to rule. Eron then killed Balon.
Eron did not immediately present himself though and the kingdom held a funeral for Balon where Yara vowed to bring her father’s killer to justice while also seeming to desire leadership of the Iron Islands.
Tensions were high in Meereen as Tyrion decided to free Daenerys’ remaining two captive dragons, as they had not been eating since her departure. He told the dragons a story about wishing for a dragon in his youth and they stayed gentle enough for him to free them.
Perhaps the most important scene of the night took place at Castle Black where the standoff between Davos and Thorne had continued. Just as Davos’s quarters was about to be broken into, Edd returned with a Wilding army that including the giant Wun Wun and that group held off the attackers. The core group of conspirators who had killed Jon, including the boy Olly, was led off into holding cells and Melisandre was asked to revive Jon. While she confirmed that she could do it, she also conceded that she had lost her faith in the Lord of Light. Just the same, she agreed to attempt a revival and it did not seem to work at first. After drawing the moment out for viewers, Jon was revived.
Unfortunately, Jon’s revival in this manner had long since been predicted by fans and there was an anticlimactic sense surrounding his return. For his death to be seen as anything more than a cheap cliffhanger gag, Jon’s character would have to have somehow been altered and such changes were not yet certain.
Episode 3: “Oathbreaker”
Jon’s situation picked up where it had left off with his looking on in horror at his naked, wounded body and only being calmed by the efforts of Davos. He did not remember anything of the afterlife but his revived presence seemed to restore Melisandre’s faith in the Lord of Light.
Jon then brought things into order at Castle Black, reappeared to his allies and having the conspirators, including Thorne and Olly, hung. After the executions, Jon formally resigned as the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch.
Where would an update for Jon be without an update for Sam? The characters were separated at the end of Season 5 and Sam had not yet been seen until this episode. He was found to be seasick on his way to Oldtown. He had changed his mind about studying at the Citadel since he could not bring Gilly and her baby there. Instead, the group headed for Sam’s home of Horn Hill.
Easily the most talked about aspect of this episode was another of Bran’s flashbacks with the Three-Eyed Raven. In this case, viewers saw Ned’s approach to the Tower of Joy in Dorne soon after Robert’s Rebellion had ended. The last of the Targaryen Kingsguard were standing watch, Ser Arthur Dayne and Lord Commander Gerold Hightower. Rhaegar Targaryen had asked them to stand watch while Rhaegar had gone off to be amongst those who had been lost at the Battle of the Trident.
Dayne had little problem defeating Ned’s companions while Ned killed Hightower. When Ned faced Dayne though, he was initially successful and it took a questionable stabbing by Meera’s father, Howland Reed, to give Ned the opening to victory against Dayne. Viewers were left hanging as Ned ran into the tower upon hearing a woman’s screams, presumably the screams of his sister Lyanna. Ned did seem to hear Bran’s voice in the past but it was only a fleeting acknowledgement as the Three-Eyed Raven told Bran that he needed to stop watching for his own safety. Mention was also made that the Three-Eyed Raven had been waiting for Bran for a thousand years but no details were given.
Viewers wondering whatever happened to Varys ‘little bird’ spy network in his absence at King’s Landing would learn that they were being used by Qyburn. He had been collecting information for Cersei.
A catty Small Council meeting ensued in King’s Landing with the group being introduced to the reanimated Ser Gregor. Elsewhere, King Tommen met with the High Sparrow and he tried to convince Tommen to turn to the Seven as his religion while denying Cersei permission to visit Mycella’s grave.
Over in Merreen, Varys used a captive prostitute named Vala to figure out that the Sons of the Harpy were being funded by the Wise Masters of Yunkai, the Good Masters of Astapor, and the rulers of the Free City of Volantis. Grey Worm was in favor of attacking those cities while Missandei lobbied against it due to not wanting to leave Meereen unprotected. Tyrion decided to take a different path by having Varys send out an as-yet-unrevealed message via his ‘little birds.’
The somewhat-related storyline with Daenerys had her arriving in Vaes Dothrak where she was admonished by a high priestess for not having come sooner to join the widows of previous Khals. It seemed that all of the khalasars would be meeting soon in Vaes Dothrak and one of the orders of business was to discuss Daenerys’ fate. Viewers had to wonder if such a grouping was going to work out conveniently for Daenerys in the end, as she still had a dragon lurking about.
Arya resumed her training with the Waif and Jaqen H’ghar in Braavos, with the Waif fighting Arya as she questioned her about the list. After admitting to having let the Hound live, despite his having been on her kill list, Jaqen approached Arya with a potion that restored her sight.
Finally, Ramsay Bolton met with Smalljon Umber to discuss an alliance against Jon Snow and the Wildlings. Umber presented Ramsay with a gift that turned out to be Osha and Rickon Stark. Viewers were horrified when Ramsay confirmed Rickon’s identity upon viewing the severed head of Shaggydog, Rickon’s old Direwolf.
Episode 4: “Book of the Stranger”
The title of this episode came from an interaction between Margaery and the High Sparrow in King’s Landing regarding her study of the literature associated with The Seven. The High Sparrow revealed the details of his past as a cobbler and how he had lived a life filled with sin before turning to the faith of The Seven. Margaery wanted to visit Tommen but the High Sparrow insisted that returning to him would only lead her down the same path as before. Instead, Margaery was allowed to visit her brother Loras. Loras was in a depressed state but Margaery encouraged him, suggesting that she knew that the High Sparrow was simply trying to break the siblings.
Also in King’s Landing, Cersei schemed with the Small Council to have the Tyrell army march against the Sparrows. Having them do so would keep King Tommen’s hands clean, at least from a public relations perspective. Viewers were reminded that Kevan Lannister had a dislike for the Sparrows since his son and heir was Lancel Lannister, Cersei’s cousin who had obviously caused waves by joining the Sparrows.
An epic reunion took place at Castle Black when Sansa, Brienne, and Podrick all arrived inside the castle gates. This was the first reunion for Sansa and Jon Snow since the opening of the series, which had contained the Stark departure from Winterfell. The pair never technically appeared on screen together in those early episodes but this moment still felt like a true family reunion.
Tension and a bit of romance was contained within Castle Black’s walls, as Davos still had not learned the truth behind Shireen’s gruesome death at the hands of Melisandre. Both Melisandre and Davos were also at odds with Brienne due to their former affiliations with Stannis, whom Brienne claimed she had killed at the end of season 5. Brienne must have been somewhat distracted since viewers were caught off guard by what might have been the beginnings of a romance between her and the Wildling Tormund. Then again, perhaps not.
Viewers had probably expected Jon Snow to lead a battle against Ramsay Bolton, especially when word arrived of Rickon Stark’s captivity. Instead, Jon seemed hesitant and Tormund pointed out that their forces were only around 2,000 against the Bolton’s 5,000. Sansa made the point that they would need more allies in the North and Jon finally agreed to help with that effort.
Down at the Vale, Petyr ‘Littlefinger’ Baelish made a brief appearance but his efforts would ultimately seem to aid Jon and Sansa without either knowing it. Robin Arryn had been left in charge of the Vale and Littlefinger convinced him that the knights of the Vale would need to head north to help overthrow the Boltons.
Speaking of the Boltons, Ramsay still assumed that all was well at Winterfell. Rickon’s protector, Osha tried to seduce Ramsay with the intent of killing him but Ramsay was one step ahead of her. He referenced Theon’s past confession that Osha had seduced him as a means to escape from Winterfell and Ramsay killed her before she could kill him.
Fallout on the Iron Islands regarding the death of Balon Greyjoy was wrapped with the return of Theon to the islands and his reunion with Yara. These events were a long time coming, dating back to Theon’s having been mutilated by Ramsay and Yara’s failed rescue of him in Season 4. Despite Theon’s claim to his father’s crown, he announces his support for Yara in her quest to rule the Iron Islands.
Over on the other side of the sea, things continued to look up for two of the major storylines.
In Meereen, Tyrion began to wheel-and-deal with representatives from the slave cities. He was surprised that some of the emissaries included the slavers who were briefly his master before his arrival and ascent in Meereen. Against the hesitations of Missandei, Grey Worm, and the freed slaves, Tyrion offered the slavers a deal whereby they can phase out slavery during a seven year period.
In the episode’s finale, Jorah and Daario arrived outside of Vaes Dothrak and Darrio learned of Jorah’s previously hidden Greyscale infection but he was too distracted to question it very far. The pair had a confrontation with some riders in the area and then had to fight for their lives.
More significantly, Daenerys was finally encountered by Jorah and Darrio but she rejected their ‘rescue’ plan. Instead, she told the gathered khals that she planned to rule over everyone and lead the Dothraki back to Westros like her dead husband had intended. The khals mocked her until she set their great hall on fire and none escaped. Daenerys finally emerged from the fire unburnt and victorious, the assembled Dothraki bowing to her with Jorah and Daario at her side.
This was truly a climactic moment years, if not decades in the making for book readers, as Daenerys had suddenly rebounded into having the Dothraki, her former slaves, and hired armies, as well as her three dragons all at her side for the first time.
Episode 5: “The Door”
The pace of reveals and reunions continued to be brisk.
Littlefinger arranged a meeting with Sansa at Mole’s Town near Castle Black. Sansa – who brought along Brienne – used the meeting to inform Littlefinger of the horrors that he caused by leaving her with Ramsey but he denied knowing about Ramsey’s dark side. When Littlefinger offered his army from the Vale to help Sansa’s efforts against Ramsey, she refused him. It had been determined that the alliance in the north that Jon had helped orchestrate was already strong enough to re-take Winterfell on its own.
Fans of the books would have been in-tune to Littlefinger’s mention that Riverrun, the childhood home of Sansa’s mother, had been recaptured by her great-uncle Brynden Tully. That sequence of events had been greatly compressed in comparison to the time devoted to it in the books.
Over in the eastern lands, Daenerys was again reunited with Jorah in Vaes Dothra, his having played a part in saving her for a second time in recent history. He confessed to her both his love and his greyscale infection while also mentioning his plan to commit suicide. Daenerys ordered him to find a cure to the greyscale and then to return to her side. The idea of a cure might have seemed hopeless but viewers needed to recall that Stannis had been able to have greyscale cured on his daughter after what was implied to be considerable effort. Daenerys and Daario then led the Dothraki toward Meereen.
Back in Meereen, Tyrion met with Kinvara, a high-ranking Red Priestess, in hopes of having her help to continue to shore up support for Daenerys. Kinvara surprised Tyrion by announcing that she believed that Daenerys was indeed the ‘Prince that was promised.’ That point was disputed by Varys until Kinvara put him in his place with her accurate references to the story of his castration. Kinvara also pointed out that Melisandre’s failure in declaring Stannis the same ‘Prince’ was likely due to her human error rather than being a flaw in the plans of the Lord of Light.
Over in Braavos, the origin of the Faceless Men was revealed to Arya. The early group members had originally been slaves in Valyria before later founding the Free City of Braavos.
Jaqen then tasked Arya with using a vial of the Faceless Men’s poison to kill an actress named Lady Crane. The actress was appearing in a play that depicted Ned Stark’s death at the hands of the Lannisters. After the performance, Arya observed Crane as being a decent person and scouted the fact that she could poison the woman’s rum. In presenting that plan to Jaqen, she questioned if the woman had been targeted by a jealous rival but Jaqen told her that such questions were not of her concern.
Over in the Iron Islands, Yara seemed to be the front runner for the Salt Throne and rule of the islands. Theon even endorsed her. However, her crowning was halted by the appearance of Euron Greyjoy, who admitted to killing Balon due to his weak leadership. Euron’s plan was to marry Daenerys and use the ships of the Iron Islands to aid her.
While Euron was being ‘baptized’ prior to his crowning, Yara and Theon stole the best ships in the Iron Islands fleet. Undaunted, Euron called for a building of new ships.
But all of the prior events in the episode would largely be forgotten by viewers given its stunning conclusion.
First, viewers learned that the Children of the Forest had created the White Walkers as part of their war against man but the Walkers had seemingly gotten out of control. Perhaps that link meant that there was a relatively easy solution that appeared poised to stop that threat once and for all? Or maybe not.
That backstory reveal involved Bran witnessing the past and being inadvertently touched by the Night’s King, leader of the White Walkers. That touch allowed the White Walkers to locate Bran, Leaf, Hodor, Meera, and the Three-Eyed Raven in the present, with White Walkers pouring into the root cave where Bran and the others had been hiding.
All kinds of death happened while Bran tried to make an escape. The Three-Eyed Raven and Bran’s wolf Summer both died. Leaf also died while helping the rest to gain time to escape. Hodor was ordered to hold a door while Bran was still mentally in the past. One thing led to another and the young Hodor was shown as being mentally scarred in the past. His younger self began to only speak the word ‘Hodor’ as a take on “Hold the door!” The Hodor of the present was then presumably killed by the White Walkers as Bran and Meera continued to flee into the wilderness.
It was not much of a surprise that most viewers could not get their minds off of Hodor’s big moment. Just when viewers might have thought that the show was left with going through all of the motions that the fans had figured out years ago… ‘bam.’ They hit viewers with something out of left field yet sophisticated and fitting. This was the kind of moment popular on the show “Lost” and it was ironic that the director was a longtime “Lost” director (Jack Bender).
In the aftermath of this revelation, it was hard to see how any of the ‘Hodor’ jokes from the past few years that had become popular in fandom were going to be funny anymore. Every time one might say or think about the character’s name from now on, the reason behind it was going to be stirred.
Episode 6: “Blood of My Blood”
Viewers had questioned how far Meera would travel with Bran in tow, especially against what appeared to be thousands of White Walkers. She was given relief when a mystery man appeared who used a sickle to fight back the coming attackers. The rescuer was later revealed as Benjen Stark, Bran’s uncle from the Night’s Watch who had been lost since the third episode of the first season and presumed dead. He had been partially turned into an undead by a White Walker attack but had been saved by the Children of the Forest. His role was to protect the Three-Eyed Raven and that title had been passed to Bran. Now it seemed that Bran was destined to stop the White Walkers as they approached the Wall.
Bran experienced a series of visions during his segment that showed a number of key events that had previously only been referenced. At the center of these revelations, the ‘Mad King’ Aerys was about to launch his desperate plan to burn down Kings Landing when Jaimie killed him and then sat, briefly, on the Iron Throne. Bran saw key moments from the past that viewers had experienced but also took in the future, with a glimpse of a giant dragon flying over what appeared to be King’s Landing.
A new location on the show was featured when Sam and Gilly arrived at Sam’s family estate of Horn Hill. The couple pretended that Gilly’s son was Sam’s son and she hid her history as a wilding.
Sam’s reunion with his family went poorly as his father Randall berated him before eventually learning of Gilly’s true origin. Gilly and Little Sam were allowed to stay at the castle but Sam was told that he needed to leave. Sam later plotted with Gilly to leave the castle together and he took his family’s Valyrian steel sword, Heartsbane.
A number of events occurred at King’s Landing, with Tommen meeting with Margaery and his being surprised that she seemed to speak well of the High Sparrow while lamenting her past sins. Tommen then agreed with Margaery’s new outlook on life regarding helping the poor and needy.
The Tyrell army arrived to confront the High Sparrow and his followers, with demands made by Jaime for the release of Margaery and Loras. That demand was countered by the High Sparrow revealing that Tommen had been converted to the faith by Margaery and that Margaery had atoned for her sins. Viewers were left to wonder how much of Margaery’s supposed conversion was simply a performance on her part but the answer would not be immediately clear.
Tommen then asserted himself as King when he took away Jaime’s position in the Kingsguard. In reality though, he was really just reassigned to help Walder Frey re-take Riverrun. Cersei encouraged this course of action for Jaime since it would give him the opportunity to send a message to the High Sparrow regarding how easily it would be to eventually take down his position.
Arya’s storyline in Braavos took a significant turn in this episode. As the play involving her family continued to be performed. After the performance, Arya met with the actress Lady Crane and poisoned her rum. After she had a nice conversation with Crane though, she saved the woman’s life by snatching the rum from her. The Waif had witnessed Arya’s inability to accomplish her mission and that failing was reported back to Jaqen. The Waif was then begrudgingly granted permission to kill Arya but viewers would have to wait to see how that mission would turn out. Arya retrieved her sword, Needle, and went into hiding in Braavos while re-embracing her life as Arya Stark.
Walder Frey made his first appearance since the ending of Season Three. He learned of the loss of Riverrun and of the reemergence of Brynden Tully. Frey wanted to regain Riverrun and had the playing chip of Edmure Tully as prisoner to play. Edmure had been the groom of the Red Wedding and had survived that matter if only to be used for this sort of a situation.
The episode closed out again with Daenerys and Daario, the pair traveling with a khalasar purported to be of 100,000. Daenerys discussed the timing and logistical work needed to cross the sea, with 1,000 ships being required. She then halted the group’s progress so that she could ride Drogon above the masses, asking them all again if they would follow her across the sea. Of course, they all shouted in agreement. Finally, she announced that she would be breaking with normal tradition and making all of the khalasar members of her bloodriders.
Episode 7: “The Broken Man”
The episode opened with the surprising return of The Hound as he had apparently been living with a group of villagers in the Vale after surviving the injuries sustained during his fight with Brienne. The village leader was a local septon who played passive toward men from the Brotherhood Without Banners. The Brotherhood ended up killing the villagers, including hanging the septon. The Hound was upset by this turn of events and fetched an ax with the intent of seemingly taking revenge on the Brotherhood.
Over in King’s Landing, Margaery met with Olenna under the supervision of the High Sparrow. Margaery urged Olenna to head home to Highgarden and Olenna made the same request of her. When Olenna left Maraergy with a passed note in hand, she realized that Margaery was fooling the Sparrows since the note had contained a drawing of the Tyrell family sigil.
Olenna then made plans to leave the city despite argument from Cersei. She pointed out that Cersei had been behind the initial imprisonment of both Margaery and Loras, so she was no friend. Further, Cersei had lost control of her power base and she was surrounded by enemies.
To the north, Jon, Sansa, and Davos moved forward on a recruitment drive that would be necessary if they hoped to retake Winterfell. The Wildlings were seemingly easy to convince since they owed Jon a past debt for his having helped them. Jon also won over House Mormont, which was being ruled by the young Lyanna Mormont. She was named after Lyanna Stark and she had refused to assist Stannis given that she still saw herself as loyal only to the Starks. Curiously, she only was only able to provide sixty-two men to Jon’s effort, skilled as they might be.
Jon was less successful at getting help from House Glover since Robett Glover held a grudge over Robb Stark’s failure to help him defend his home against the Ironborn. Jon and Sansa ended up disagreeing over to what to do next with Jon wanting to attack the Boltons before they could gather a larger army or benefit from a change in weather. Sansa tried to help the situation on her own and she composed a letter to an unrevealed person.
Bronn made his first appearance of the season, surely a crowd-pleasing move as the producers included him in Jaime’s confrontation with the Blackfish at Riverrun. The Blackfish did not bend when the Freys threatened to kill the captive Edmure Tully. Jaimie then tried to get his surrender but the Blackfish pointed out that he had enough supplies to stay within Riverrun for two years at what would be a steep cost in men for the Lannister army.
Theories by fans that Yara would try to beat her uncle Euron to Daenerys with her stolen fleet turned out to be correct. She revealed this plan to Theon while the pair was stopped over at a brothel in Volantis. Causing some chatter amongst fans was the fact that Yara then had sex with a female prostitute, a change in her character from the books. George R. R. Martin had previously stated that she was not bi-sexual although other female characters – Cersei and Daenerys amongst them – had brief same-sex explorations in the books but not on the television show.
Finally, the episode left Arya in a bad situation as she had just secured a ship ride back to Westros when the Waif attacked her. Arya escaped from the attack but had been severally wounded after the Waif stabbed her in the stomach.
Episode 8: “No One”
The recipient of Sansa’s letter from the prior episode turned out to be Brynden ‘Blackfish’ Tully at Riverrun. Viewers were happy to have Brienne and Podrick roll into Riverrun with that letter in hand since it meant that the characters would end up running right into Jaime and Bronn. The siege on Riverrun that was being led by the Lannisters and Freys put a kink in any plans that Sansa might have had for the Blackfish to join her, a situation even further complicated by Cersei having issued a bounty for Sansa.
Jaime was quite polite with Brienne, allowing her to keep the Oathkeeper sword despite their technically being at odds with one another. Brienne was even allowed to negotiate with Brynden but he ultimately refused to give up Riverrun and leave to help Sansa.
Jaime then tried to negotiate a deal with Edmure Tully, having claimed that Edmure had fathered a son with Roslin Frey and that lands would be given to him at Casterly Rock. Edmure declined the offer but finally caved in when Jaime threatened to catapult Edmure’s supposed son over Riverrun’s walls. Edmure was able to get loyal guards to let him enter Riverrun and he opened the castle to surrender as Brynden made his escape. It appeared as if Brynden might flee with Brienne and Podrick but he instead chose to make a fruitless stand against Lannister soldiers. Jaimie then looked on as Brienne disappeared with Podrick.
While things were going well for the Lannisters in one corner of the world, the events in King’s Landing continued to go badly for Cersei. She was told by Lancel Lannister that the High Sparrow wanted to see her but she resisted that command. She then learned that Tommon had continued down his path of partnership with the Faith Militant and that he had outlawed trial by combat. Cersei was still on the hook for a trial by the Faith and it seemed obvious that she was going to use the reanimated Mountain as her trial by combat champion but that plan had now been turned moot.
There was a fair bit of activity over in Meereen as Vary’s departed on an unknown mission, bringing an end to his longstanding banter with Tyrion. Tyrion passed time while getting to know Grey Worm and Missandei better but the jokes that Tyrion and Missandei tried to share while Tyrion got them to drink a bit were not hits.
The action kicked into high gear though as slavers from Astapor, Yunkai, and Volantis all arrived with a fleet. They had a mind to reclaim the freed slaves and began to cause damage to Meereen. The battle was not resolved in this episode but it seemed to being turning in a positive direction with the return of Daenerys as she rode Drogon into Meereen and she presumably had her warrior army in tow.
The storyline involving the return of The Hound from the prior episode continued. It turned out that Lem Lemoncloak and Gatins were behind the murder of the villagers who had befriended The Hound and The Hound ended up being granted the right to kill them.
The Hound then joined the other Brotherhood members for a meal and they tried to recruit him into a fight against forces seeking to destroy all known life. This seemed to be a reference to the White Walkers but a confirmation was still outstanding.
The episode wound down with a return to Arya’s storyline as she again visited with Lady Crane during a performance of her now-familiar play. Crane offered to give Arya a part in the play while helping to nurse her back to health. Arya slept via help from milk of the poppy and Lady Crane ended up being killed by the Waif. Arya awoke to find the dead Lady Crane – the contract on her death having been fulfilled. The Waif then scolded Arya for not having followed through with her duty.
Arya fled to an alley, her wounds reopening from the effort. She lured the Waif into a dark room and Arya used the darkness to kill the Waif.
Back at the House of Black and White, Jaqen H’ghar found the Waif’s face in the Faceless Men face collection courtesy of Arya. Her eyes had been gouged by Arya’s sword. While Jaqen admitted to having sent the Waif to kill her, he announced that Arya had passed a test to become a member of the Faceless Men. Arya refused the offer, saying that she was Arya Stark and that she was heading home.
Episode 9: “Battle of the Bastards”
Thie episode was split into two main storylines, one in Meereen and the other in Winterfell.
The action in Meereen continued from the end of the prior episode, with Daenerys and Tyrion meeting with representatives from the Slave Masters. The Masters underestimated Daenerys’ strength as she had Drogon attack their ships while the Dothraki horde took down the Sons of the Harpy on land. The battle wound down with Typrion telling the three representatives of the Masters that one of them must die. Two ended up singling out a remaining Master but Grey Worm killed the two instead of the one. The one Master who survived was told to share what he had witnessed and make others aware of Daenerys’ power.
It was in the aftermath of the battle that Theon and Yara arrived in Meereen with this ships. They offered use of the ships to Daenerys if she were to help them rid the Iron Islands of Euron while also granting the Islands its independence. Daenerys would consider the offer but first insisted that Yara have her forces cease their raiding activities and she reluctantly agreed.
The other main stage of action this episode involved the two men at the center of the episode’s title – Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton. The circumstances had the disadvantage for viewers of being somewhat predictable since it seemed unlikely that Jon had been resurrected only to be killed again. As such, the looming questions were merely how the battle would end and how Ramsay would die.
A bit of artificial tension was injected into the situation when Jon spoke with Melisandre prior to the battle. She admitted that the Lord of Light might have brought him back simply to allow him to die again. Jon then asked Melisandre not to bring him back if he was to die. She refused to honor that request though, saying that it was for the Lord of Light to decide and not her.
The pre-battle festivities began with Jon, Sansa, Tormund and Davos meeting with Ramsay and Smalljon Umber. Terms of surrender between both parties were given and declined, most notably Ramsay refusing to fight Jon in one-on-one combat. Jon and Sansa did not believe Ramsay’s claim that he had Rickon captive but Smalljon convinced them by producing Shaggydog’s head. That sight enraged Sansa and she told Ramsay that he would die the next day. Both groups then rode off.
Jon came across as questionable in tactics and generally ill-prepared during a pre-battle meeting with Sansa, Tormund, and Davos. After the meeting, Davos and Tormund discussed their pasts in servicing losing battle leaders – namely, Stannis Baratheon and Mance Rayder.
While later on a walk, Davos came across the pyre where Shireen was killed last season. Davos noticed in the ruins a wooden horse that he had carved for her and realized that Melisandre was behind her death.
The battle of the bastards started ugly and remained that way for some time. Rickon was freed by Ramsay but merely used as part of a sick game. Rickon was allowed to run towards the Stark forces while being shot at by arrows. Jon was lured out to help Rickon but Rickon was shot in the back and killed, leaving Jon exposed in the middle of the empty battlefield. Jon only survived the setup by virtue of having had the Stark cavalry charge around him. The Bolton army surrounded the Stark forces in a horseshoe configuration and all seemed lost until Sansa appeared with Littlefinger’s Knights of the Vale.
While being distracted by the arrival of the Knights, Smalljon was killed by a bite to the throat from Tormund. The onslaught of the Knights forced Ramsay to retreat into Winterfell and prepare for a siege. That siege didn’t last very long though since the wildling giant Wun Wun made sure to crash through Winterfell’s gates. Hero that he was, Wun Wun was ultimately felled by Bolton’s men and his death marked the potential extinction of the race of giants.
Jon eventually made his way into Winterfell to confront Ramsay. He usd a shield to block arrows being fired at him by Ramsay and then beat Ramsay severely before turning his fate over to Sansa.
The aftermath of the Battle of the Bastards came as Stark banners were re-raised inside Winterfell. Rickon’s body was to be buried next to Ned in the crypts. The episode ended with pure revenge as Sansa took Ramsay to his cell to meet with his intentionally starved dogs. He claimed that the dogs would be loyal to him but Sansa prove him wrong when she released the dogs and they tore Ramsay apart. Sansa departed from the scene with a smirk on her face.
Episode 10: “The Winds of Winter”
In the aftermath of the fall of Riverrun in Episode 8, Jaime and Bronn crossed paths with Walder Frey at The Twins. Walder made the claim to Jaime that he was also a kingslayer but Jaime was not amused by the remark. He questioned the value of the Frey-Lannister alliance in light of Frey’s inability to hold Riverrun.
Later, Frey was eating dinner and an unrecognized servant girl arrived to serve him pie. Frey asked about her and slapped a hand against her backside. He then lamented that his sons were late for dinner but the servant girl proclaimed them present. Frey opened the girl’s pie and found the flesh of his sons inside. The girl then removed her face to reveal that she was Arya Stark. Frey was shocked and tried to flee but Arya managed to slit his throat and she smiled at having gained her revenge.
The scene in King’s Landing brought to a head the past couple of seasons of storylines there with the trials of Cersei and Loras in the Great Sept of Baelor. Loras’s trial was first and he ended up confessing his sins while pledging to follow the faith, even renouncing his claim to Highgarden and getting a seven-pointed star carved into his forehead.
A sign of dramatic events to come involved Tommen trying to leave his chambers to attend his mother’s trial and his being blocked from doing so by the reanimated Gregor Clegane. While those in the Sept waited for Cersei to arrive, Mester Pycelle was lured into a room where Qyburn awaited him and Pycelle was stabbed to death. Lancel had also been lured out of the sept and was stabbed. He did not die until noticing a cache of wildfire under the sept but he was in no condition to stop it from being ignited.
Back in the Sept, Margaery observed that both Cersei and Tommen had still not arrived and she suspected a trap. The High Sparrow did not listen to the warning and the ignited wildfire underneath the Sept caused it to explode, killing everyone inside. These deaths included Margaery, the High Sparrow, and Kevan Lannistere, along with a good number of the Faith Militant.
Cersei was delighted by the explosion but Tommen, still under guard in his chambers, was devastated by the loss of Margaery. He jumped out a window to his death in an attempt to rejoin her in the afterlife.
Cersei was initially unaware of Tommen’s death and her next immediate task was to pay back a grudge against Septa Unella. She ended up having the Septa strapped down and slowly tortured to death by Gregor Clegane, payback for Cersei’s own torture and walk of shame.
The discovery of Tommen’s suicide cast a dark shadow over the events that followed for Cersei. She asked Qyburn to have the body burned and the ashes sprinkled over the rubble of the Great Sept. The audience was reminded that her two other children and father had all been buried there.
Jaime and Bronn later arrived at King’s Landing and found the Great Sept to be in ruin. Cersei had taken her seat on the Iron Throne as the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, a moment that Jaime glimpsed from a balcony.
Sam, Gilly, and Gilly’s baby arrived at the Hightower in Old Town as the arrival of winter was announced. Sam was allowed entry into the Citadel’s library but, as expected, Gilly was barred from joining him.
The payoffs continued to come as a giant moment finally arrived when Bran found a weirwood tree near the Wall. Benjen could not travel past the wall due to what he said was magic that prevented the undead ‘infection’ inside him from crossing.
Bran then flashed back to the vision of his father Ned and his Aunt Lyanna at the Tower of Joy. Lyanna had just given birth to a baby and that baby was handed to Ned. Although viewers did not hear the baby’s identity in Lyanna’s whispers, it was strongly implied that the father was Rhaegar Targaryen. The image of her newborn child’s face then morphed into the image of the adult Jon Snow in the north.
Of course, Jon had no idea regarding his seemingly being the nephew of Daenerys. He was otherwise occupied, as Davos confronted Melisandre over the matter of Shireen being burnt at the stake as a sacrifice. Melisandre confessed to the mistake and Jon ended up banishing her from the North.
In the aftermath of Melisandre’s departure, Sansa and Jon had a nice discussion in which Sansa apologized for not alerting Jon in advance that the Knights of the Vale might eventually assist in the battle. Both admitted to not trusting Littlefinger and it was agreed that they needed to trust one another because of their many enemies. Littlefinger was not silent in these scenes though, as he soon made an unsuccessful bid to put advances on Sansa while also planting seeds in her head that she should be the Queen of the North and outrank the bastard Jon.
At a later dinner, the feisty Lady Mormont called out the houses that had not come to help Jon in the battle against Ramsay. The Lords of those houses all asked Jon for forgiveness and then pledged loyalty to him. Events in the North concluded for the season with Jon being named King of the North but Littlefinger did not seem to be done with his scheming nor did Sansa seem to be content.
Viewers had waited since the season’s first episode to learn what would happen next in Dorne and the answer was significant. Olenna Tyrell met with Ellaria Sand in the aftermath of the loss of her family members by Cersei’s hand. She took Cersei’s action to be an act of war and she sought revenge given that the future of House Tyrell was seemingly doomed. Ellaria had a surprise in store while promising Olenna “Justice and vengeance” when she was corrected by Varys. He appeared from hiding and said “Fire and blood.”
The season then ended with Daario Naharis being told by Daenerys that he would be staying behind in Meereen. He would be the keeper of the peace in Meereen. In addition, she needed to remain open to marriage options in Westros and she did not bend to his notion that he could simply be her lover in spite of marriage. The pair seemed to part on good terms.
Tyrion was blamed for inspiring the breakup but Daenerys was not manipulated by him since she had made the choice for political reasons. Just the same, he consoled Daenerys in the aftermath of her discussion with Daario. She admitted to being concerned with how she had been easily able to dismiss a man whom she had loved. Tyrion then told Daenerys that he had given up on himself and others but that he believed in her and she rewarded him with a pin that would signify him as the Hand of the Queen. Tyrion was overcome with emotion.
Daenerys and her three dragons, along with the Dothraki, Ironborn, Dornishmen, and Unsullied, departed for Westros. They all assembled to use the new fleet of House Targaryen. Daenerys took her place on her flagship alongside Tyrion and Missandei to head for Dorne and a landing in Westros. One slight production error showed Varys somehow on the flagship but fans worked out way to dismiss his presence as the show accelerated time.
This season finale was full of a number of major revelations. Past season finales had largely been about doing wrap-ups to re-position for the next season, so it was great to see them mix it up this time. I had seen some references to theories about Cersei and Tommen being killed but I never connected all of the dots and also did not figure that the showrunners would kill off the bulk of that region’s support cast.
Tommon’s death was tragic in that it came from a place of his not realizing how much he had been manipulated. He had fallen hard for his wife and he was willing to kill himself in the hope that he could be rejoined with her after death. Yet, we were never clear as to if she had just played him like everyone else. His death was not Hodor-level tragic, but it was still darned tragic.
Tommon’s death laid the groundwork for the final act for the Lannisters. Cersei was finally queen of… something? However, the prophecy of the witch still loomed over her and viewers/book readers really had to assume at this point that the younger brother who would someday strangle her was Jaime. That was an ugly dark cloud to have looming over the horizon but also a logical end game.
Melisandre was not a very sympathetic character but even that nasty death of Shireen was at least revisited in a way that made it a tiny bit greyer. Yes, it was a horrific act but Melisandre did make the arguable point that she thought that the loss of the child would mean the saving of the lives of many, many more people. It was that whole ‘one vs the many’ argument that always makes for great drama. This was no “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” though, since the person who was sacrificed had it done against their will but, as Melisandre pointed out, she had not acted alone in the decision. As a whole, Melisandre had an interesting season insofar as viewers had seen different aspects to her such that she became a ‘crisis of faith’ screwup who the audience could relate to, crazy as it might sound.
Complaints about Varys being able to move too quickly between Dorne and Meereen for the episode’s final shots seemed to get explained if one considered that he probably sailed out to meet Dany as the fleet was about to land in Westeros. It was a little odd that he did not wait on shore in Dorne, so either it was just a creative visual that the producers wanted to get on camera or the ships were instead headed onward with the somewhat risky plan to sail straight up to King’s Landing.
It was interesting to note the milestone of how far the series had come. The death of Mace Tyrell signified that all of the heads of the Great Houses of Westeros who were in place at the beginning of the series had since died.
This was a strong season and that the final couple of episodes were all-time favorites. In my mind, picking one over the other was hard and probably not necessary to debate.
Looking back at last season, I had written at length after that finale about being worried that the show was running out of time to adequately wrap up everything. As a rare duck that was fine enough with the “Lost” finale, I found myself worried that we would see some decisive conclusion on the horizon.
I no longer think that that will be the case.
This season was the first where the showrunners were playing a sort of ‘advance editor’ role for George R. R. Martin and it really felt like stuff was happening at the increased pace that I was thinking was needed. Frankly, I never thought that they would pick up the pace as they have but I was glad to be wrong. Furthermore, context was important in judging the show. I zoomed through books 1-3 after seeing seasons 1-4 and find them to be a perfect trilogy. Books 4-5 are obviously controversial amongst fans and I found them to be good but not the great of 1-3. They were good by most fantasy standards but the pages didn’t turn as quickly as before. The condensing of that material and even going into some material from book 6, as was done in season 5, ended up being masterful in retrospect.
The clarity toward an ending to the saga that had previously not been obvious to me seemed more clear now and the following topics remained top of mind:
* White Walkers aside, Euron Greyjoy appeared to be getting set up as the final major ‘bad guy’ on the show. If speculation were correct, he would reveal himself to be a powerful wizard-type who might unleash an H.P. Lovecraft/Cthulhu-type super-monster while also having a way to take control of the dragons. George R.R. Martin had frequently mentioned Lovecraft and those mentions further cemented fan theories. Everyone loved Lovecraft and the Cthulhu ‘mythos’ and it would be a great major influence to have shown up at the book series/show’s conclusion.
* A popular assumption had been that Dany will unload her ships in Dorne and then march on up to King’s Landing. She would presumably make quick work of the Lannister clan but then have to face off against the northern forces. At least, one had to hope that the show would get to such a standoff relatively quick.
* There were many online debates regarding if Dany and Jon would make a good couple and there was widespread skepticism due to many having a hard time seeing the chemistry between the two. Logistically, it would be hard to make a romance work given the short amount of time left in the show. As commanders, they were not exactly going to have a much social time where they could hang out and fall in love. If they did get married, it would be a political marriage to bridge the north and south.
At this point, Jon was the literal ‘Song of Fire and Ice’ and it felt more and more like he was going to end up being the lone figure of greatest importance across the series. That claim became even stronger if he ended up being the promised one who stopped the White Walkers. Where Dany figured into all of this other than in supplying him a dragon to fly around on, I was not sure. The fact that she had to end up somewhere in the mix made me think that a political marriage was likely but that romance was not…. at least not in the time left in the series.
* Similarly, there had been talk of a Brienne/Jaime coupling at some point near the end of the story but I had never really seen much of a romantic spark going on there. Neither seemed the other’s type. As written, they were more like odd-couple friends in a cop movie who eventually grew to respect one another as close pals.
* The sixth season certainly paid off all of the darkness in season five with Sansa obviously getting some direct satisfaction. Further, the fan theories that she might be pregnant with Ramsay’s child seem to be fading.
That said, Sansa was poised to grow jealous of Jon in the near future and that tension would probably be a storyline that played out but I did not think that it would end up getting too far. Bran was very close to returning to Winterfell and he actually had a claim to Winterfell that was ahead of Sansa, so she would have him to deal with too.
* Littlefinger making his statement about wanting to rule Westeros finally revealed his motive but he seemed somehow more interesting as an ambiguous figure. Surely, he was poised to a threat and a schemer as he tried to manipulate Sansa, but it was hard to foresee him finding major success. He just seemed like a person whose schemes would finally catch up with him at some point.
* It is similarly unclear how things would go with Arya being a cold-blooded killer. Maybe her final character arc would be to find a way to regain her humanity and conscience.